Byrons Mullens, Rodney White, Javaris Crittenton, remember these guys? Short of being a fan for their respective teams, you probably don’t remember them since leaving college for the NBA after just one year. While their NBA careers haven’t gone exactly how they would have hoped they aren’t the only ones. A long list of one and dones continues to grow every year after the college basketball season. There are, while not as many, success stories that include the likes of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love, all having promising NBA careers after short college stays. Suffice it to say however all of these men share in the same desire to leave early, and that reason is money. Not just a little, but a lot of money.
This money is something many of these players or their families have never had. The average college kid sitting and screaming at the TV in the dorms for their favorite college teams would take that money in a heartbeat. So why is it such a big deal when college basketball players do it? These players are forgoing school, to secure more money then most people will ever have at one time in their lives, some more money than they will ever make in their entire lives.
Now it’s really easy to sit back behind my keyboard and say “stay in school kids” “get your education” “don’t leave early, what about a back up plan after basketball” but not me nor any of the other professionals, coaches or analysts can speak to each individual player’s person situations. The most that can be done is to try and guide them and support them in whatever decision they make. Whether that is helping them by encouraging them to stay in school and receive a meaningful education or leaving early to pursue a dream many people fail to achieve. If leaving college early is what they feel is best suited for them, why not help and support these young athletes instead of sitting in front of a TV camera or behind a computer and criticizing them.
After all, anyone in favor of not allowing players to leave after one year in college is competing against money and that is a losing battle. Money isn’t the key to happiness, but to some of these kids who haven’t seen more than 10 dollars in their pocket their whole life, it sure seems like it is. In our society, our lives revolve around money. Why do we start school when we are 5? So we can go to elementary school, middle school, high school, and then maybe to college for the education? Yes, and no, we go because we need that education to get a job that will give us a chance to earn money. We need money, if for nothing else to eat, drink, sleep, and live in an acceptable manner. Most of us non-pro athletes only start making money years after college and some remain in debt for a good part of their adult lives. These kids have the chance to make the money now, not later, and the amount of money is huge.
In any other aspect of life when we try to tell other people how to live their lives people view as unjust or disrespectful. So why when college players leave early is it ok to tell them they are making a huge mistake, or that their decisions is wrong. I find it hard to believe Kevin Durant, Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, or some guy named Kevin Garnett would feel that when they left a year early or didn’t even bother attending college, they made a huge mistake.
Why do the majority of fans actually want their players to stay? For their education? I don’t buy it. It’s because they want their team to be the best, to be feared. They want their team to be celebrating under the confetti that first Monday in April. That’s ok, but don’t pretend that you actually want them to stay to get their education. If it were because we actually cared about their education, it would be understandable but its not. Anyone saying that a player staying isn’t at least a little about having a better team the next year is lying. Do students, fans, coaches and others care for these players? Yes some of them actually do, but this number is limited. College basketball is a business, whether that’s right or wrong means nothing right now. The bottom line is that these star college players that leave after one season are considered a commodity, not much more. What happens when something is a top commodity? We demand more of it, until it no longer has a use. So when the player decides to leave early or they don’t perform to the sometimes-impossible standards that are set for them it’s in the words of Jay-Z “on to the next one”.
Even if the NBA increased the playing age to 20, like discussed, they are just delaying the inevitable. This will probably cause a lot more schools to have eligibility issues, due to fact that schools will now be responsible for keeping their players eligible for two years and not just one. This is especially difficult because now the players that want to leave after just one year must stay for two. The point being is that they need to go all the way and require graduation or keep it at the current policy and stop complaining. The latter would be the better option, but an increase to 20 isn’t out of the question. If it truly is about their education, last time I checked four-year degrees are the ones that make the most impact for a person financially then why don’t we implement that. It isn’t the player’s fault that they want to use the system in place to their advantage; it’s the system itself that is the real problem.
When all is said and done under the current rules the debate will continue and so will the opinions, but it’s not up to us, its up to the players. The players need to do what’s right for them and if that’s leaving college for millions of dollars, that’s what they need to do. After the curtain shuts on their career the decisions they made, either for themselves or for others, will be the ones they have to live with the rest of their life. In the end it’s a whole lot easier to live with the decisions you made, and not ones that were made for you.